Recently the country was abuzz with the news that the government has decided to increase the prices of certain drugs by 18 percent excluding the essential drugs. Every sick person needs life saving drugs and these are mostly required on a daily bases. The government needs to have a regulatory body to check that they are safe, affordable and fulfill the need of the majority of the people. The list of these ‘essential drugs’ has been compiled by WHO expert committee a long time ago –it needs to be reviewed periodically and based on this Pakistan has developed a ‘National Drug Formula’ which is also updated periodically but hardly implemented.

As in all other sectors there is a huge mafia operating which has taken these essential drugs and mixed them with some other formulas to make expensive and unsafe drugs. The first step is that the cheap drug is taken off the market and later replaced with more expensive drug. Faced with lack of it, the poor patient is forced to buy the new revamped, sub-standard and expensive drug.

The aim behind the genesis of ‘essential drugs’ list was to make these drugs within the reach of people at affordable prices thereby making medical treatment safe and cost effective. The government of Pakistan is bound morally, ethically by its commitment to the international health agencies such as WHO etc and to the articles of constitution to safeguard the people’s basic fundamental rights. This also covers the need to make essential drugs available everywhere and at all times.

In fact, the government should provide essential drugs free of cost to the needy people as is done in other countries including SAARC ones. In reality, the motive behind depriving people of essential drugs is to provide space for expensive non-essential imported drugs to earn hefty profits which are siphoned off by the companies to the countries of origin.

The so-called ‘Regulatory Authorities’ are composed generally of incompetent and corrupt individuals, responsible for the continuing pathetic drug scenario in Pakistan. It is high time effective measures were adopted to rectify the pathetic drug situation in Pakistan .If ‘essential drug’ policies are working well in Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka and even in Bangladesh, then these should work in Pakistan too. Pakistan was envisaged to be a welfare state by its founding fathers and the present government should make sure that it becomes one!

LT GENERAL PROF MAHMUD AHMAD AKHTAR,

Rawalpindi, December 6.